How are major life decisions like a murder? I’m sure enterprising thinkers can come with a host of answers to that one. For the purposes of this blog post, though, the central connection is the familiar triad of motive, means, and opportunity. Whether we’re talking about killing the business partner who sold you out to the cops with the untraceable poison you acquired from your sloppy drunk CIA brother-in-law or proposing marriage to your Broadway-loving significant other with a choreographed group dance number at that restaurant your best friend manages, these are the kinds of choices that require a reason, a mechanism, and the chance to use them.
(Note here that I’m differentiating between major life decisions and major life events. Choosing to have a child with your partner is one thing; accidentally winding up pregnant is another. In my case, a major life event created the opportunity for this decision.)
Motive is easy enough – I’ve already explained why I write and why I’ve chosen this genre. At some level, the motivation to become a professional-level science fiction and fantasy writer has been with me since high school. Its strength has waxed and waned over time, but it’s always been there.
For me, the means to pursue this come down to two major, related skills: the ability to write well and the ability to write quickly. I believe these are largely learned skills (although different people will learn them at different rates), and like most skills, learning them requires a combination of instruction and practice. I received a solid instructional foundation in writing from my K-12 education, with additional honing during my undergraduate days. My academic and professional work have given me plenty of practice at writing quickly, albeit in a nonfiction context. The ability to write fiction well is the piece I’m still developing, although I think it’s coming along. There’s an old bit of advice about writers needing to get a million words down before they’re truly publication-ready. I don’t know what the conversion rate is between the thousands of nonfiction words I’ve written and the necessary fiction skills, but it’s safe to say I’m not starting totally from scratch.
This leaves opportunity. For me, the collapse of my previous employer at the end of September meant that I suddenly had the time to invest in doing this work. Even as I’m trying to find or build new, paying work for myself in my other field, I’ve got the bandwidth now to really sink my teeth into writing fiction.
That’s only part of the story, though. The other part is NaNoWriMo. Before last week, I’d only completed NaNo once before, during my last year of undergrad. I’d attempted it a few times in the intervening years, but never completed it. This year, it came along at just the right time. I’d had a month post-employment to clear my head and start lining up other paying work, but I didn’t have regular hours yet. I recognized in myself the signs that I was slipping into a less-than-healthy daily pattern and knew I needed something to anchor the reconstruction of my self-discipline. NaNo provided that opportunity. Somewhere during November, I realized that this was working quite well. I’m letting the novel rest until at least February, but I now have these great habits of work for fiction writing that I want to maintain.
Motive, means, opportunity. Check, check, check. And that’s why I’m now trying to be a pro writer of fiction.